Friday, May 1, 2009

Florida wins, Michigan loses

Today's Tampa Tribune has a story about how recession-ravaged Florida is changing its mind about slashing child welfare spending.

The reason: The cuts could endanger a huge pot of federal money – Florida's "waiver" from federal funding rules, which allows more than $100 million a year in federal aid previously reserved for foster care to be spent on better options as well.

If Florida didn't have the waiver, it could have slashed and burned with impunity. So the waiver benefits Florida's vulnerable children two ways – by allowing money to be spent more wisely and by protecting them from the worst of the budget cutting. And, by the way, as has been discussed previously on this Blog, there's an independent evaluation of the waiver which shows that it has improved child safety.

Another state that could desperately use a break like this is Michigan. Oh, wait. Michigan actually got such a waiver at the same time as Florida - 2006. Michigan's Department of Human Services even bragged about it to reporters. There were nice news stories and everything. But then, at the very last minute, without telling anyone, Michigan DHS chickened out and sneaked away from the whole deal. Isn't it time to demand to know who made that asinine decision – and why?

And speaking of asinine, one of the big scare tactics used by groups like the Child Welfare League of America to oppose plans to make things like the Florida waiver the norm in federal child welfare spending is the claim that a flexible funding system makes it easier to cut overall funding for child welfare. Not only is that flat wrong, Florida now is proving that CWLA got it backwards.